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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Community programs

"A new Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre will service Hastings, Kempsey and Greater Taree."

Community Legal Centres Program

Legal Aid NSW administers State, Commonwealth and Public Purpose Fund (PPF) funding for 36 Community Legal Centres (CLCs) throughout NSW, including Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW), the peak body representing CLCs in the State.

CLCs are independent, non-profit organisations that are generally incorporated bodies managed by a board or management committee.

CLCs provide free legal services to address the specific needs of disadvantaged people. More detailed information about services and locations of individual centres is contained on the CLCNSW website.

Five CLCs also receive funding to operate Children’s Court Assistance Schemes (CCASs) at eight Children’s Court locations across New South Wales.

The Community Legal Centre Sub-Committee advises the Legal Aid NSW Board on matters relating to management and funding (Appendix 13 has membership details).

The Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (CCAS) Advisory Group provides advice on the operation of the Children’s Court Assistance Schemes and policy and guidelines issues. Appendix 13 has membership details.

Fact file
36 centres assisted 46,831 people
Made 4,593 referrals to Legal Aid NSW
Received 3,878 referrals from Legal Aid NSW
Opened 8,596 new cases and completed 7,349 cases
Opened 803 major cases (complex/lengthy matters)
Delivered 931 community legal education programs
Funding in 2010-2011

A total of $18,103,835 was paid to CLCs through the program comprising:

  • $7,366,097 in Commonwealth Government funding (40.69%);
  • $5,509,422 in State Government funding (30.43%);
  • $5,228,316 in Public Purpose Fund funding (28.88%).

The Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department, the NSW Premier and the Minister for Women and Legal Aid NSW provided an additional $2,035,459 for new and expanded services, rural programs, short-term partnership programs and a new CLC.

As well as making their annual contribution, the Trustees of the PPF also approved $360,000 for the Aboriginal Legal Access Program.

The Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department also provided one-off funding of $435,455 for service delivery to specific client groups.

More details about funding can be found in Appendix 6.

Major achievements

Priority 1: Social inclusion

Under the New South Wales Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan, funding of $1,305,260 has been provided for Rural Women’s Outreach Programs conducted by Shoalcoast CLC (at Nowra), Western NSW CLC, Northern Rivers CLC and Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre. The funding is for five years and will enable centres to increase their outreach and community legal education programs in remote areas.

Priority 2: Access to justice

A new CLC was established at Port Macquarie on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, servicing the Local Government Areas of Hastings, Kempsey and Greater Taree. The Commonwealth and State Governments will fund the CLC at $310,000 per annum over three years up to 30 June 2013.

The centre opened on 3 June 2011 and the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland, officially launched it on 9 August 2011.

Dignitaries at the launch of new community legal centre Mid North CoastAt the launch of the new community legal centre L to R: Federal MP for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott; Deputy CEO of Disability Advocacy NSW, Catherine Peek; Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland; Principal Solicitor of Mid North Coast CLC, Jackie Curran and Coordinator of Mid North Coast CLC, Nicholas Comino. Photo: Sharon Fuller

In 2010-2011, the Commonwealth Attorney-General announced that funding would continue for providing legal services to clients in Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) up to 30 June 2013. These services commenced as a pilot in January 2010.

The 15 CLCs that provide legal services in 18 FRCs across New South Wales provided a total of 2,354 advices and opened 427 new cases.

Legal Aid NSW is also providing legal services to clients in three FRCs. These services include legal information sessions, community legal education, legal advice, minor assistance and some legally assisted mediations.

In 2010, Legal Aid NSW took over the administration of the Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP) in CLCs. The aim of the ALAP is to ensure Aboriginal people have better access to culturally appropriate legal services and are aware of their legal rights.

The PPF funded this arrangement as a trial that was subject to a review.

An independent review, completed in February 2011, found that all CLCs participating in the ALAP have increased the level of casework and advice provided to Aboriginal clients over the funding period.

The Trustees of the PPF and the State Attorney General approved further funding of $369,000 per annum over the triennium 2011-2014 to employ workers to build on successful projects in Hawkesbury Nepean CLC; Shoalcoast CLC; Northern Rivers CLC; Macarthur LC; and Illawarra LC. The funding also provides for a full-time coordinator position at CLCNSW.

Priority 3: Integrated services

In August 2010, the CEO directed new funding from the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services towards innovative partnership projects between Legal Aid NSW and CLCs.

Guidelines for project grants funding were finalised in December 2010 and applications for projects to be funded in 2010-2011 were called for in February to April 2011. The successful projects in this round are:

  • Community education through case studies – helping migrant women in the workplace; submitted by Kingsford Legal Centre (KLC) as a partnership with Asian Women At Work and a Legal Aid NSW employment lawyer ($20,000);
  • Visa cancellation on character grounds: meeting the legal needs of prisoners – to help prisoners challenge decisions at first instance; submitted by KLC as a partnership with the Human Rights Unit of Legal Aid NSW ($25,000); and
  • To Tweet or Not To Tweet? – helping children and young people identify and manage the legal and privacy risks involved in using social media; submitted by the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre as a partnership with the Legal Aid NSW Children’s Legal Service ($26,750).

PPF funded projects operating in 15 CLCs over the triennium 2008-2011 were reviewed between December 2010 to February 2011. The review found that 14 centres had met or exceeded their targets. On the recommendation of the Trustees of the PPF, the Attorney General approved further funding of $1.3 million per annum over the triennium 2011-2014 for projects and programs in 14 CLCs.

New tripartite service agreements were implemented between 33 CLCs, Legal Aid NSW and the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department, setting out conditions for the Community Legal Services Program from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2013. New service agreements are also being developed for three other non Commonwealth-funded CLCs to bring them in line with the rest of the NSW CLC sector.

From 1 January 2011, CLCs were given access to the Legal Aid NSW Employee Assistance Program. Under the program, CLC staff and their family members will have unlimited access to free and confidential counselling services provided by accredited psychologists across NSW.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Review the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme Program. Introduce a new performance management framework incorporating stakeholder feedback on CLCs.

Develop new partnership projects that focus on the goals established through the Access to Justice Framework and National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.

Key challenge

The National Association of CLCs is introducing a new accreditation process for all member CLCs. Working with CLCs to meet accreditation standards and audit requirements will be a challenge requiring significant collaboration and work in the coming year.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program

Legal Aid NSW administers NSW Government funding for 28 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs), providing services in 108 Local Courts around New South Wales.

The program assists women and children who have experienced or who are experiencing domestic violence to obtain effective legal protection from New South Wales Local Courts through applications for Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs). The services provide information, assistance and referrals to social welfare organisations.

A committee with representatives from a cross-section of agencies advises the CEO about program activities. See Appendix 13 for details.

Fact file
Provided services at 108 courts
Provided 73,765 services to 21,219 clients across NSW (a 25% increase on last year and a 78.7% increase since program expansion)
10.2% of clients were Aboriginal women
21.2% of clients were women from backgrounds other than English speaking
55% more interim and final orders were made

Graph of Increase in WDVCAP services as a result of expansion

Funding in 2010-2011

In 2010–2011, $6,970,622 was paid in grants for this program. Funding is provided to incorporated, not for profit non-government service provider organisations through a triennial service agreement with Legal Aid NSW. Details of funding allocations are in Appendix 5.

Major achievements

"There has been a 78.7% increase in services since the program expanded in July 2009."

Priority 1: Social inclusion

Protecting women and children from domestic violence is a key goal in our Corporate Plan social inclusion priority.

As a result of program expansion from 65 to 108 Local Courts, there has been a 55% increase in the number of interim and final orders obtained for clients from 2008 to 2011, and an increase of 60.1% in the number of referrals made to other services.

The number of culturally and linguistically diverse specialist workers increased from 5 to 13 and Aboriginal specialist workers increased from 10 to 23 across the 28 services. As a result, the number of Aboriginal clients increased from 1,407 in 2008-2009 to 2,129 in 2010-2011 and the number of culturally and linguistically diverse clients also increased from 3,261 to 4,499 across 2008-2011.

In November 2010, the WDVCAP Unit was awarded the Premier’s Award, Leading Change for its successful program expansion. Despite a complex restructure, the program was effectively implemented with strong support from stakeholders.

Recipients of the Premier's Award for Leading ChangeBev Lazarou, Michelle Jones and Louise Blazejowska with the Premier s Award for Leading Change. Photo: Dani Pontes.

Priority 3: Integrated services

The Program relies on collaborative partnerships to achieve positive outcomes for clients. Partnerships were strengthened through regular meetings with representatives from service provider organisations and WDVCAS coordinators. Members of the NSW Police Force and NSW Local Courts were included in our training programs.

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

In preparation for the next funding triennium (2012-2015), the WDVCAP Unit engaged a consultant to review the Program’s expansion. The purpose of this project is to measure efficiency and use the findings of the review report to enhance funding arrangements, staffing allocation, and WDVCAS locations.

From 1 March 2011, Legal Aid NSW provided funding to the WDVCAS Network Inc for the external placement of the Network Executive Officer position. To assist the Network to operate as an independent peak body the Program Manager worked with the Network to develop a strategic plan for 2010-2011 and is providing ongoing support and mentoring to the Management Committee for the next 18 months.

A training officer was appointed to oversee training programs, which are critical to WDVCAS workers understanding the legislative framework of domestic violence in New South Wales and Legal Aid NSW policies and practices. New initiatives included training in the special needs of priority client groups – Aboriginal clients, non English speakers and clients with a mental health issue. See Appendix 4 for details.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Conduct an external review of the WDVCAS services to ensure they are achieving their targets for clients.

Ensure domestic violence lawyers are well used at courts.

Key challenge

Resourcing lawyers from a distance. This will be done through regular training, better use of social media and by linking specialist panel lawyers with inhouse lawyers. We will also ensure that panel lawyers can easily contribute to policy and operational reform.